Lady Gaga may love her little monsters, but not enough to give each and every one of the 17 million-plus that follow her on Twitter a free iPad. That’s why, when she appeared to do that very thing yesterday, people were understandably cautious…and with good reason.
Gaga’s Twitter account updated yesterday morning with the message “Monsters, I’m giving away FREE iPad2′s to each one of you in the spirit of the holidays :) Go to bit.ly/s5MTqM to receive one!” This came after an earlier (deleted) offer of Macbooks to each of her followers, also in the spirit of the holidays. Either Gaga had gone…well, gaga with yuletide generosity, or something was clearly up. After bit.ly updated the link to define it as “potentially problematic”–a polite way of saying “Please don’t go to this spam site”–that tweet was also deleted, and a third one posted, again inviting followers to a Bit.ly-ed site with the promise of free goodies.
Clearly something was up, a suspicion confirmed when Gaga replaced the offending tweet with a message that read “Phew! The hacking is over! And just in time, I’m on my way to Japan! So excited to spend Xmastime with my TokyoMonsters!”
According to TechCrunch, at least 7,000 of Gaga’s monsters did as their leader suggested, according to Bit.ly stats, with Twitter showing that a number of them also retweeted the offer. Gaga wasn’t the only Twitter account hit by the hack; singers Nelly Furtado and Nichole Scherzinger were both apparently affected and offering “free” Apple products to unsuspecting followers yesterday.
The moral of this story? Spirit of the holidays or not, there’s no free iPad, MacBook or other Apple toy out there for you, especially one hidden behind a Bit.ly link.
Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.